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RVing Here and There

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  • Americans Scientific Illiterates?

    Posted on May 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

    “Though the discourse of science is metric,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert in a note to her book, The Sixth Extinction, “most Americans think in terms of miles, acres, and degrees Fahrenheit.  All the figures in this book are given in Englisn [Imperial] units…”

    This unfortunate observation implies several things:

    America is Scientifically Illiterate

    First, the average American is scientifically illiterate.  A scientific paper that mentions centimetres, or joules, or kilograms is incomprehensible.  A hectare  is meaningless.  Symbols like  kPa or kWh might as well be hieroglyphics.   Even my spell-checker, set to American English, marks “centimetres”  — the official Système International spelling — as incorrect; it expects “centimeters”.  Americans don’t even spell like the rest of the world, let alone speak the language of international science.

    America Gets the Kindergarten Version

    Second, reporting or explaining scientific terms or achievements or research to Americans thus requires an additional layer of translation or simplification.  To Americans, even more than to citizens of other countries, science is a foreign language, as incomprehensible as French or German (as when they write Voilà! as Wallah! or zaftig as softig).   This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in trying to comprehend the modern world: they can only grasp the kindergarten version, the watered-down summary, the oversimplification.

    How Many Pounds in 328.7 Kilograms?

    Third, it leaves average America open to errors of conversion, mistakes in translation.  Many examples of conversion error disasters exist; some of them are no doubt apocryphal, others are apparently well-documented.  Such famous errors have cost the US millions, perhaps billions of dollars, as well as lost time and international embarrassment.

    • 1998, a joint NASA/ ESA project, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) lost all communication with Earth.  A conversion algorithm from English to metric units had been omitted from some of the control files.
    • 1999, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported a case where a patient received 0.5 g (grams) of the sedative Phenobarbital; the prescription was for 0.5 gr (grains; a gram is about 15 grains). Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States, says the FDA.  How many of those errors are due to misreading of units?
    • 1999, NASA lost the Mars Climate Orbiter ($125 M) after a 286-day trip to Mars.  Miscalculations due to the use of English units instead of metric sent the craft slowly off course.
    • 2004, Tokyo Disneyland — The Space Mountain ride was derailed due to a broken axle.  The axle was the wrong size, due to a conversion from English to metric units
    • Probably hundreds of minor errors go unreported each year.

    Doesn't Use the Metric System

    You Have to Wonder Why

    One has to wonder why America ties itself so firmly to a version of the Imperial system.  After all, they fought a revolution to be free from England.  Why cling so tightly to the past?

    As early as 1866, metric measures were legal in the USA, with various acts and agreements passed during the succeeding century and a half (see 150 Years of Legal Metric Usage in the USA for the sorry history) yet today even Britain is more thoroughly metric than  America, according to that article.  The USA is woefully behind the times and most other countries, choosing alchemy over science, the past over the present, the antique over the modern.

    Okay, it’s not quite that bad, and America has managed to become a world leader in science and technology despite their handicaps.  Their trade deficit, on the other hand…

     

  • NatureHike Ultralight Tent: Set-up and Take-Down

    Posted on May 16th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Set-up and Take-down of the Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

     

    • BanggoodProduct ID: 1020476
    • Color: Orange
    • Brand: Naturehike
    • https://www.naturehike.com/cycling-ultralight-silicone-one-man-tent/
    • Model: NH18A095-D Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    Good First Impression

     

    I bought this tent for occasional casual use in backpacking and bike touring.  It made a good first impression: compact, light, well-made, and well-presented. All the parts were there, including a footprint; pegs, poles, and footprint came in their own storage bags; everything fit nicely into the tent storage bag. Fit and finish were decent. Time to set it up.

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    Steps to Set Up the NatureHike

     

    Setup was quick and easy.   A waterproof Ikea-style picture instruction sheet is sewn into the tent bag so it can’t be lost. It’s typical pole-in-grommet setup, with clips for the fly, similar to most tents I’ve used over the past two decades.

    If you jam the poles into the ground and throw on the fly, you can in fact then add the footprint and tent afterwards, out of the rain. Might cover that in a future post. However, the normal setup is:

    1. Remove items from the storage bag and lay them out in a convenient order. In windy weather, place pegs and poles on top of tent and fly so nothing blows away (you hope)

      Everything set out and ready to go.

      Everything set out and ready to go.

    2. If using the footprint — advised for rocky or rough terrain — lay it out and peg it down square, with one corner facing the prevailing wind. Is there a right way up for the footprint? Yes: the little buckles should point up. Put the rest of the pegs and their storage bag into the main bag so they don’t get lost or blow away.

      Footprint staked down

      Footprint staked down

    3. Spread the tent out. Note the orientation of the door; your head will be to the right as you look at the door from the outside. You want the door at a 45 degree angle to the prevailing wind. Peg the tent down square.

      Tent spread out and pegged down

      Tent spread out and pegged down

    4. If you have the footprint down, slip out the pegs one at a time and add the tent strap, then reinsert the peg.

      Tent and footprint pegged together

      Tent and footprint pegged together

    5. Remove the poles and put the pole bag into the main bag so it doesn’t blow away (by habit, I stow everything in the tent from this point on). Open the poles. The longer part, with four sections, will go to the right as you face the door. Insert the poles into the grommets in the straps. If you have the footprint down, put the pole through both grommets.

    6. Clip the tent to the poles, using the attached hooks.Tent hooked to pole

    7. Open the fly sheet, orient it so that the vestibule is over the door and put it over the poles and tent.. Move around to the back of the tent, flip up the fly, and tie the three straps to the central pole. Use slip knots (like tying a shoe lace) so you can undo them easily later. Why do this from the back? Because if you’re oriented to the prevailing wind, you can hang on to the fly sheet more easily (the voice of experience!).  These ties make the fly and frame a more integrated unit, so that the wind guys are attached to the frame (poles) not just to the fly.

      The the fly to the poles

      Tie the fly to the poles

    8. Clip each corner of the fly sheet into the buckle. Don’t tighten the fly straps just yet.

    9. Stretch out the vestibule and peg it down.

      Stretch out the vestibule and stake it down

      Staking the vestibule

    10. Go around to the back side, stretch out the fly sheet using the attached strap, and peg it down.

      Stake the fly at the back

      Stake the fly at the back

    11. Now go to each corner and stretch the fly straps so that the fly is properly centered over the poles. You may need to readjust this in rain as the nylon fly will stretch a bit. Don’t forget to relax the straps as the fly dries out.

    12. Add the guy lines if heavy weather is expected. Or just to be safe.

      Guy line added at head end

      Guy line added at head end

    I am able to set up this tent by myself in just over five minutes in calm conditions. It takes a little longer with a strong wind (I didn’t time it, because I needed to concentrate on getting it up and getting my gear stowed).

     

    Taking Down and Packing Up the Silicone Ultralight

     

    Take-down in dry, calm conditions was simple and took only a few minutes. In windy conditions, folding the tent and fly was a bit of a fight. Fortunately, there’s lots of room in the tent bag so I didn’t have to be terribly precise about folding; everything went in fine. I was able to fold the tent fairly dry under the fly in the rain, so that only the footprint and fly went in wet. I was able to dry everything out and repack it with no harm.

     

    Notes and Observations

     

    • This is a free-standing tent, which means that if you need to you can unpeg it, and move it to a new location or better orient it to the weather. It also means you can tip it onto its side to dry the bottom off before packing up.

    • The fly on my particular model has what NatureHike calls a skirt, little flaps that spread on the ground on each side. I know them as storm flaps or snow flaps, and the tent is steeply pitched enough that it might withstand snow. In the winter, shovel snow onto the skirt; in summer, pile rocks or sand or sticks on the flaps to keep the wind out in heavy weather. Not sure there’s enough ventilation, though — we’ll see. There is a little triangular vent at the head end.

      Vent propped open

      Vent propped open

    • The vestibule is tiny, barely enough room for shoes in the corner and a small pannier on either side. The rectangular floor inside is fairly large, room enough for me and gear.

      Vestibule with a couple of Axiom panniers.  Crawl over them to enter tent.

      Vestibule with a couple of Axiom panniers. Crawl over them to enter tent.

    • The pointy top means tight head room when you’re kneeling or sitting cross-legged. Other designs give a greater feeling of space even with smaller floor plans. I didn’t find this too bothersome since I’m mostly sprawled out when I’m in a tent, or propped up by my pack.

    • The tent has a hook at top for a light, and a small gear pocket at the head end by the door.

    • Some of the stitching is off-center, and might eventually have to be redone, but all look reasonably secure. I expect at least a summer of use without problems.

    • The Velcro fasteners on the vestibule do not look firmly sewn. We’ll see how they hold up

     

    Further Reading

  • Naturehike Ultralight Cycling Tent: Specifications and Impressions

    Posted on May 15th, 2017 admin No comments

    Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    Purpose of Purchase

    I bought this tent for entry-level bike touring and maybe a little weekend backpacking. I figured that I didn’t need expensive top-end gear for occasional and casual use. It’s hard to tell from photos, and ordering online can be a bit of a risk.  However, I researched NatureHike and found their products well-reviewed.   I’ve also had good results generally from the place where I bought it, Banggood.com.

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    Specifications of the NH Silicone Ultralight

    • Banggood Product ID: 1020476
      Color: Orange
      Brand: Naturehike https://www.naturehike.com/cycling-ultralight-silicone-one-man-tent/
      Model: NH18A095-D Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent with skirt
      Capacity: Single person
      Color: orange
      Package size: 400x150x150mm
      Size: 2050x1550x1100mm (exclusive of storm flaps)
      Weight: 1300g (excluding pegs and guy lines)
      Flysheet Material: 20D 380T rip-stop nylon, waterproof to PU1000, UPF30+
      Inner tent material: 210T ripstop polyester fabric + B3 high density breathable mesh
      Floor material: 150D ripstop plaid oxford
      Poles: 7001 aviation aluminum

    Package Contents

    This Banggood product came with the following:

    • 1 x Tent
    • 1 x Fly Sheet with optional storm skirt
    • 1 x Cinch strap
    • 8 x Pegs with storage sack
    • 2 x Guy lines
    • 1 x Set of Aluminum poles with storage sack
    • 1 x Storage Bag
    • 1 x Footprint with storage bag

    Good First Impression

    The tent arrived surprisingly quickly from a Canadian warehouse (ordered April 21, 2017; arrived May 10, 2017; only 19 days!).

    The whole package struck me as being compact, light, well-made, and well-presented. It also came with the footprint in a separate bag. On opening, I found all parts present and in good packaging. By this I mean that the tent bag has handles and snap-straps to cinch it up; the aluminum pegs and guy lines were in a plastic ziplock bag inside a cloth sack; likewise the aluminum poles. The tent itself was bound with a little cinch strap. Eventually, I’ll probably be getting rid of some of this to cut down the weight by a few grams. But it does make a good first impression.

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Initial Conclusions

    This looks like a well-made light-weight tent for backpacking and bicycle touring.  I expect that it would wear well and last at least one season for occasional, casual use.  However, this is only a first impression.  The tent has yet to be tested in actual use.

  • MEC and COBS: Camping and Bread

    Posted on May 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    A meeting of the Edmonton & District Callers & Instructors Association (EDCIA) and the Community Dance Capital Dance Association (CDCDA) on Sunday ended around 4:00.  The venue, Queen Mary Park Community League, happened to be a few blocks north of Oliver Square in Edmonton.   Oliver Square happens to be the home of

    1. The new Mountain Equipment Coop store, which happened to be having its grand opening that day
    2. COBS Bread, a well-known bakery chain from BC
    https://meccms.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/17_CM_0006_StoreEdmondton_Store_OPEN_Post_Phase_Hybris_5x2_FA.jpg?v=1493682555&w=1000&h=400&auto=format&q=40&bg=0FFF

    Concept design of the new MEC store in Edmonton. It actually looks pretty much like this! Image from MEC.

    First, we toured MEC.  It’s huge.   I’m not sure, though, that there are more different items than in the old store.  There are certainly racks and racks of each item.   Great fun to walk around and look, as MEC specializes in good-quality gear.  So much has changed since I was backpacking  and camping with my sons in Scouts twenty or so years back .  Equipment is lighter, more compact, more technical.   There seem to be a lot more choices.

    I wound up buying three little gel-snacks (Clif  Shot Energy Gels, @ $1.50) a Swedish Trangia mini-stove with cookset (4000-918, $48; a bargain compared to $116 plus shipping at Amazon.ca!), and a nifty little MSR folding spatula ($6.95).  The gels are for my MS Bike this June, and the other items are for future planned bike touring.  But they’ll be handy just to throw in the truck with a pack of freeze-dried food to have for emergencies.  Maybe we’ll carry it in the RV to be tossed into the daypack for hot soup or tea on a cool hike.

    The Trangia alcohol stove has been around for at least 40 years, I think.  We built tin-can alcohol burners with the Scouts, so certainly this is old and low-tech.  What is new (to me, at least) is the little cookset, which is light and compact.  The 15 cm aluminum frypan is non-stick coated.  The burner and pot handle fit inside the 0.8 L bowl and the frypan clips on top to hold everything together.  The stove is said to boil 750 mL of water in about 6 to 10 minutes.   Didn’t get fuel, but looking forward to testing this out; it will bring back memories.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove. Image from amazon.ca

    There are offshore versions of the Trangia for about half the cost — such as this one from TVCMall for $15 CAD plus $5 S/H — and they would probably serve.  I could have purchased one of those, plus an inexpensive cook set such as the NewStyle 8-piece, which might even have room for the stove, for about $20 from amazon.ca or even less from a place like Banggood or GearBest.  This is cheaper than the Trangia Mini from MEC, and would include more items, two bowls, a spoon, and cup, a pot-scrubber and a rice ladle.   Every camper needs a rice ladle!  Benefit of buying from MEC was that the item was on the shelf and I could examine it before purchase, and at least some of my money stays in Canada.

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    Our second stop was COBS Bread, just across the parking lot from MEC.   Delightful place.   We bought fresh-baked filled croissants: one ham and cheese for me, one spinach cheese.  They were warm, flaky, and tasty and a wonderful ending to our visit to Oliver Square.

  • Square Dance Attire: Trapped in Time

    Posted on May 1st, 2017 admin No comments

    We call it “Modern Western Square Dance”, but you might not think it so “modern” to see us.    “Appropriate Square Dance Attire” for ladies requires huge skirts and voluminous crinolines.

    The crinoline began in the early 1850s as a cage or device of hoops and straps, made of wood, metal, horsehair, whalebone, or some combination of these materials, designed to expand the skirt and so make the waist appear more narrow.

    Several modifications were made to the design of the crinoline before [it] began to fall out of fashion in the 1870s….”

    Fashions circa 1850-1870

    Fashions circa 1850-1870

    Ridiculing Crinolines. Women had such a love for their crinolines that they appear to have been willing to accept men’s ridicule and to withstanding the perils encountered when wearing them.

    Men complained that women encased in their huge contraptions were unapproachable; therefore they could not escort them or offer them their arm. [One source] refers to the analogy of women in their crinolines as being like a majestic ship, sailing proudly ahead, while her male escort trailed along behind…. From the point of view of men, crinolines distorted the feminine shape. In Germany, many males swore that they would not marry a girl who wore such an apparatus. Some men went as far as comparing women’s iron hoops to weapons of armory….

    When women wore their crinolines they encountered problems such as walking through doors with someone else or sitting on a sofa with another woman. When sitting down their crinolines would be tilted up in the air, revealing too much [exposure of a lady's bloomers was scandalous!]. When walking around a room accidents could happen to the ladies such as knocking over an occasional table laden with bric-a-brac, or they could inadvertently become combustible if they came too close to a fire. Due to the enormous size of their skirts fire victims could not be saved by rolling them a rug. Getting into a carriage was almost impossible and women also had to be careful when approaching a carriage otherwise they could get their hoops entangled in the wheels….

    Wearing a crinoline on a windy day was quite a feat. To begin with there was the embarrassment of skirts lifting up high in the air exposing more than what was considered proper for a lady. Fortunately for milady,…lacy pantaloons were now in vogue. In windy weather the gals that were light as a feather risked being blown off their feet, or even over a cliff. With luck, maybe their crinoline might have acted as a parachute. By the 1870s, the exaggerated skirts lost their appeal and women began to wear closely fitted garments, doing away with the crinoline.

    Source: http://www.fashionintime.org/history-womens-hooped-petticoats/3/

    Page from a 1952 catalog advertising nylon “Bouffants to set your skirts afloat.”

    Page from a 1952 catalog advertising nylon “Bouffants to set your skirts afloat.”

    From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, the crinoline resurfaced as fashionable wear, but it was more of a stiffened or starched petticoat worn under a “swing skirt”. “Give your skirt a whirl and a twirl” urged the crinoline ads of the day. These lighter, softer, and more practical versions provided the waist-narrowing effect of the wide skirt while avoiding most (though not all) of the difficulties of the hooped versions [along with some modern issues such as getting them caught in a car door].  A fad for a mere half-decade, the fashion vanished with the poodle skirt.

    Catalog page showing the 1950s precursor of square dance skirts.  Polka dots and floral prints were also  popular, as were fancy accessories such as bows, lace, ruffles, and flounces.  The square dance movement at least dded a great deal of color to the style.

    Catalog page showing the 1950s precursor of square dance skirts. Polka dots and floral prints were also popular, as were fancy accessories such as bows, lace, ruffles, and flounces. The square dance movement at least dded a great deal of color to the style.

    Yet somehow, like a pig mired in mud, the crinoline and swing skirt became inextricably stuck in the square dance movement. It is clear that for the ladies, “appropriate square dance attire” is an outright imitation of late 1950 styles, based in turn on those of a century earlier. Our dress code follows fashions over a century and a half old. Yet we dare to call ourselves “Modern Square Dance”. Au contraire, we should bill ourselves as “Vintage Square Dance” and put on demos in museums and historical societies.

    It would seem likely that insisting on styles from 1850/1950 has square dancing trapped in the past.

  • First Spring Ride

    Posted on April 28th, 2017 admin No comments

    Edmonton Oilers vs Annaheim Ducks in the second playoff game at Honda Center in Annaheim tonight, so my friend Brian at Circuit Cycle and Sports kindly moved tonight’s scheduled ride to Tuesday.

    Getting the Road Bike Ready

    In other exciting news, today’s weather was decent, sunny with no wetness from the sky, so I dusted off my road bike.   Literally.  It had sat in the garden shed all winter and was dusty.  Tires a little soft but not bad, and the battery was low in the trip computer.

    I had bought new panniers from United Cycle at their MS Bike open house, and put them on just for fun.  They don’t fit well, so I’ll have to juggle some racks around and modify the attachment.

    Axiom Appalachian 2L panniers from United Cycle, Edmonton

    Axiom Appalachian 2L panniers from United Cycle, Edmonton

    Anyway, with no more maintenance than a dusting, a check of the brakes, and a poke at the tires,  off I went for the first distance ride of the year.

    I put in a few kilometers around town doing errands — stopped to pick up a check from a MS Bike sponsor; dropped some stuff off at the second-hand store; got a new battery for the computer; pumped up the tires a bit; bought some camping gear and did other shopping — then took off for a ride around the Leduc multiways, west and south into the new developments.

    Bike computers have dropped so much in price -- this one is only $14 USD

    Bike computers have dropped so much in price — this one is only $14 USD

    Cycling Further, Harder, Faster

    But was that ride ever a shock!  Discovered that all my cycling over the past three weeks (in the rain and snow) had been at a doddle.  When I started out today I was averaging 10 to 12 kph at a cadence of 50-60.  Two years ago I was averaging 18 to 20 kph when cruising and could do 30 km/h on the flat, with a cadence  between 70 and 80.

    So I pushed up the pace, aiming for an average speed of 20 km/h and average cadence of 75.   Even though I’ve been walking 30 minutes a day since April 1, and cycling at least 30 minutes a day, I found that this left me a bit breathless.

    Dressing in Layers

    The weather was really changeable.  In the sun, the bike computer read 20C.  When the clouds came out, it read 10C.   Riding in the sunshine, I was too warm.  Riding under the clouds, I cooled down quickly.  I was happy to take advantage of the need to stop to zip up or unzip to maintain temperature, to give me a chance to catch my breath.

    Courtesy www.experienceketchikan.co

    Courtesy www.experienceketchikan.co

    At least I have collected enough apparel over the years to meet those conditions.  For today’s ride I wore warm moose socks from Finland (not made from moose hair, they just have moose silhouettes on them), leggings, and bike shorts.  Up top, a base layer of a light a long-sleeved sweatshirt, then a biking jersey; for insulation, my light Sugoi cycling jacket; and over top a RaceFace wind-jacket with pit zips, which I left closed.  Riding hard in the sun, I had to unzip the top three layers; under the clouds, all got zipped right to my neck.   I was comfortable in all conditions and wasn’t damp inside when I got home.

    Overdid It, Maybe?

    Wound up logging 14.5 km on the computer, and probably did 5 km before replacing the battery.  But oh! are my legs ever tired!

    And on checking the bike computer, I see that when I put the new battery in, it reset the wheel size, so I’m not sure just how fast I went, or how far….

    For Further Reading

  • Ride in the Rain, Cycle in the Snow

    Posted on April 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Or, I Wish You Had Been There!

    Our Meetup ride around the Leduc Multiways was a great ride — too bad nobody came!

    I biked from home to the parking lot that was the trailhead, and  waited from 1:45 to 2:20. My apologies to Joan, Deloris, and Catalina if they arrived after I left . I was dressed warmly enough that, with everything zipped up, I was not cold as I waited in the wind shelter of a dugout at the ball diamond, in sight of the parking lot.

    After it was clear that no one was coming, I went for a ride by myself, and  was a nice enough ride.   By then, the multiway paths had been either cleared or had melted clean, and the wind had died down enough not to be much of a nuisance.  I had one fewer layers than I wore this morning, and was totally toasty but not too warm for the entire ride.

    Test Your Cycling Gear

    Deliberately riding in inclement weather is excellent training for both how you dress and how you ride.

    You get to test your gear, to see how things work.  Too cold?  Maybe one more layer.  Too warm?  Open the neck or pit zips, or strip one layer.   Wet feet?  Maybe better footwear or rain booties needed.   Cold head?  Maybe a skull cap, or masking tape over the helmet vents.  Getting wet?  Either you are sealed up too tight in waterproof gear (aka portable sauna), or something leaks.

    What about your bike?  How does it handle snow or puddles?  Are you comfortable with how it handles?  Can you manage the gear changes required?  How do your brakes hold up when wet (stopping takes a lot longer!)?   How wet will you get from splash back from the front wheel?   Does your back fender or trunk bag stop water from giving you a wet stripe up the back?

    Test Yourself

    You also get to challenge yourself, to learn how to handle adverse riding conditions.  It’s important to know what you can stand and what you can stand up to.  It’s better to do this deliberately — as a training exercise, on a local ride where you can head for home or the car quickly if something is amiss — rather than run into bad weather on a longer trip where you’re unprepared and have no easy out.  Knowing that “I’ve handled worse than this in training!” makes it easier to cope with what the sky throws at you.

    If you’re packing your gear, this is a reality check — how quickly can I access my rain gear and get into it?  Is what I need readily accessible?  In this as in most things, practice and experience pay off.

    Conclusion

    Personal experience:  a ride like today’s, in +2C with light snow and wind, is far more pleasant than riding in light rain.  Riding in heavy rain, even if you’re well-equipped and properly prepared, can be kind of a drowner.  Uh, downer.

    Other Ideas

     

  • Shopping for a 1-Person Backpacking Tent

    Posted on April 21st, 2017 admin No comments

    When I was younger, I did a bit of bike touring and backpacking with my kids.  I toted a three-person tent for them, and a bivy shelter for myself.  Had thought for years about getting a light-weight 1- or 2-person tent and getting back into it.  But the wife isn’t into that kind of camping (her ideal is to camp in a motel) and I kept putting it off.

    This summer, I have the opportunity to do a bit of touring with Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet, who is organizing a bunch of trips.  This gives me a chance to revisit the light tent idea.    For the first trip, there are four possibilities:

    1. Drive my current 4-person dome tent to the destination and leave it there, bike to the campsite, ride back, then drive back to the camp and retrieve the tent.  A bit of organization and time required, but only cost is for gas.  This is a good tent with full fly and huge vestibule: I can stand up in it, there’s lots of room for gear or a roommate if necessary.  Hey, I can pre-deliver lawn chairs, a table, all the comforts of car camping!
    2. Use my current “emergency” bivouac, which consists of a “survival blanket”  (from Survive Outdoors Longer),  a lightweight nylon tarp for a ground sheet, and bits of rope and parachute cord.  I’ve used this system for years for winter camping where mosquitoes aren’t a problem.  With a bit of mosquito netting, I could  probably make this work (and mossies usually go to bed shortly after I do!).   Total mass including cordage less than 0.8 kg, cost was about $25 total.  These things live in my day pack (in various iterations) and have seen emergency use over the years.

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

    3. Purchase a used tent.  I found a bottom-end 2-person tent by Escort for $10 at the local Second Glance store, the kind with a handkerchief-sized fly that lets the rain in when you open the door and bleeds moisture in through the fabric wherever you touch it.  Since the trip will probably be cancelled for inclement weather, this would do, but I really don’t like that kind of tent on general principles.  Still, price is great.  Mass about 2 kg, surprisingly low.    I also found a rather large and somewhat hefty used  2.5 kg Cabela 1-person tent on kijiji.com for $150.   Tempted by that one, despite its relatively high mass.
    4. Purchase a new tent.   Ah, but what to buy.   Prices range from cheapie Chinese knockoffs for under $100 to high-end ultra-light technical marvels in the $800+ range.

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    I can afford good quality, and I generally try to buy the best gear that I can afford — but can I justify it for a few occasional uses?   I’m not apt go get seriously back into either bike touring or backpacking because I currently have no one to go with, and it worries my wife when I head off on my own (unhappy wife, unhappy life).

    In the end, I narrowed my choices to the entry-level Naturehike Wind-Wing 1 from GearBest in China ($102 delivered, complete with footprint; 1.7 kg) , and the mid-priced Spark 1 from Mountain Equipment Coop ($299 delivered, footprint extra $32, total mass 1.3 kg)

    MEC's Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    MEC’s Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    Naturehike is a Korean company specializing in outdoor merchandise.   Their products are generally well-reviewed and they appear to be reasonably well-made.   Nobody is going to pretend that they’re similar to a Big Agnes or a MSR Carbon Reflex, but for a starter tent it looks like a reasonable choice at an attractive price.

    Mountain Equipment Coop is local, and there’s some merit to spending my money in Canada.   MEC offers a rock-solid guarantee and I was really tempted by the Spark 1 tent.  It’s a bit larger and roomier than the Wind-Wing, is 400 grams lighter, and might be a little more compact when packed (hard to tell from the online images).  But at more than three times the price, it seems a bit high for “I’ll try this to see how I like it”.   If I were younger, or if I had a travelling companion, and knew I were going to be doing a lot of light-weight travel, I’d get the 2-person Spark 2.

    But life is what it is, and for now I’m on my own or going with a group.   Today I put in the order for the NH Wing 1 and paid a little extra for tracked air shipping and delivery insurance, for a total of $102 CAD. Watch for a review soon.

     FOLLOWUP

  • Snow Cycling on Leduc Multiway

    Posted on April 15th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    My friends Brian and Teresa at Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet have organized an exciting schedule of rides for this spring and summer.  Today’s ride, the first of the season, was rescheduled because of weather (temp -2C, 5 cm of snow) but I went anyway.  And hey, it wasn’t that bad.

    From our front porch Friday morning

    From our front porch Friday morning

    I’m training for the Leduc-Camrose MS Ride, and just generally trying to get back into shape, so I’ve made a point of walking for 30 minutes and cycling for at least 30 minutes each day.  Why let a little snow stop me?

    Yesterday I was on the streets, getting splashed by passing cars.  I wore five light layers and was comfy, having to unzip at the neck a couple of times when I was working hard.    Today, being lazy, I wore a mock turtleneck, a zippered hoodie, and my winter parka.  And oy, was I warm! By the time I got home both parka and hoodie were unzipped to my navel and I was pretty soggy with perspiration.

    At the trailhead.  Leduc Common in background.

    At the trailhead. Leduc Common in background.

    I  first took out the off-road bike (Rockhopper), but before leaving the yard I switched to the Peugeot, my town bike, because it has fenders and wouldn’t splash up onto my clothes.  Unfortunately, it also has  2.5″ tires with a street tread.   Slip sliding away!

    There was nobody at the trail head (I was a little late; they may have come and left), so I took a selfie, trying to catch Leduc Common in the background, then set off.  Parts of the multiway were plowed, making my ride easier and drier.  But the unplowed parts were a bugger!  Over 5 cm of wet, sticky snow to plow through.  Often with a headwind to boot!

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Rather than follow the scheduled twelve-kilometer route, I just rode my 30 minutes and pulled in to home.    In some ways, it was harder than yesterday’s ride because of slogging through the snow.  At one point, my front derailleur was so clogged with mud and snow that I couldn’t downshift to go up and over a railway crossing.  Darned near had to hoof it, but did manage to bull through and didn’t skid out.

    All in all, it was a decent ride.  Being on the multiway meant I wasn’t on the road being splashed by passing cars.  It wasn’t that cold.  I could have dressed a bit more sensibly, but  sweaty  is good, right?  It means I was working and burning calories.  Normally I’d avoid getting that damp in the winter due to the risk of hypothermia, but for a short ride close to home, I wasn’t worried.

    You may be thinking, “Idiot could have dismounted and walked through the snow-covered parts.”    Sure I could.  But that would have felt like cheating.

  • Bicycle Touring Workshop with Ed Weymouth

    Posted on April 9th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Bike Touring Workshop

    Hosted by Circuit Cycle & Sports, Millet
    April 9, 2017
    Featuring Ed Weymouth, Trip Leader for Edmonton Bike & Touring Club

    Ed jumped around a bit during the course of his interesting and entertaining presentation; these notes represent my attempt to organize the material. Any errors or omissions are mine.

    Ed Weymouth

    Presenter Ed Weymouth (Image from LinkedIn)

    General Considerations

    • Regardless of type, duration, or destination, any bike tour will be constrained by three considerations: time, cost, and health. The tour must fit your available time and budget, and must be doable in terms of your age, experience, and ability.

    • Always advise people of where you are going, whether it’s a group tour, a solo tour, etc.

    • keep notes of some sort — a blog, a diary, a trip log

    Types of Touring

    • Supported vs Unsupported riding – a supported ride has a vehicle (SAG wagon, Support and Gear) to carry heavier gear such as sleeping and cooking equipment. In an unsupported ride, the cyclist carries everything.

    • Group vs. Individual Organization – a tour group sets the itinerary, overnight stops, etc. and may provide bikes and other gear for a fixed price. An individually organized tour means the cyclists can adjust their schedule, stay longer in some spots, etc. Tour companies may also assist in self-directed tours.

    • Camping Tour – — the cyclist totes everything for overnight camping, meals, etc. at a campground. A common and inexpensive way of touring

    • “Credit Card Touring” — cyclists simply carry spare clothing and maintenance equipment, but stop at a hotel or B&B for the night. Often the most expensive option.

    • Free Stay Touring — sites such as couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org assist cyclists in finding hospitality stays with local residents. Free on a “pay it forward” plan. Sounds like fun.

    • Stealth Camping — the cyclist sets up camp at any convenient spot, rather than in an actual campground. Usually fine if you clean up. Perfectly acceptable in some ares, perhaps considered trespassing in others. Another low-cost option.

    • Radonneuring — sometimes considered to be a type of touring. Also known as Audax in some countries, this is a sport where long distances (200 km up) must be cycled in a specified time.

    Preparing for a TourCircuit-Cycle-logo-final

    Once you’ve decided on your destination, route, budget, etc. there are many things to do before the actual tour

    • Get yourself in shape — ride enough that you will be able to handle the tour — “toughen your butt” to the saddle

    • Get your bike in shape — new tires & tubes, have it tuned up, gears adjusted, chain cleaned & lubed and all that

    • Acquire the equipment you need, including racks, panniers, clothing, etc. (discussed elsewhere)

    • Field test your setup and do some practice runs. If you’re camping, do some local overnight trips.

    Gearing Up

    • What to take depends on your type of touring, but gear good for a three-day trip is also good for three months or more

    • Check online for kit lists — see the online resources section.

    • There are three factors to consider: weight, volume, and cost. Light, small, and compact all cost money. Big, bulky items are harder to pack. Heavy items mean harder pedalling and make hills a greater challenge.

    • Places to carry include handlebar bags (easily accessible for oft-needed items such as camera), front rack & panniers, rear r1ack & panniers. Include frame bags, underseat bags etc. for small items. A “trunk bag” may ride atop the rear rack separate from the panniers.

    • It’s important to have waterproof storage (not just water repellent). A dry-bag such as used by kayakers and canoeists is useful, but plastic bags inside the panniers work okay too. Waterproof pannier covers are also available. Tuck your passport [or your dry socks] into a zip-lock sandwich bag.

    • [Ed didn't mention it, but I think suitcase packing systems (nylon compression bags) and stuff sacks look useful for organizing your gear in a pannier]

    • A BOB (“beast of burden”) trailer may be useful if you need to carry more gear.

    • Balance is important. Weight needs to be properly distributed between front and rear and side-to-side. An unbalanced bike may be hard to steer and difficult to manage. It may take several re-packings and test rides to get this right.

    • Take spares — Things will shake loose, fall off, get lost… Take nuts, bolts, a tube, a brake cable.

    • Have repair tools and know how to use them. Know how to replace a tube, adjust your gears, adjust your brakes. [Take Brian's repair courses!]

    • Clothing selection – look for items that will wick perspiration, go lightweight, use layering. Again, there is a trade-off between cost, weight, and bulk.

    • Rain gear is a challenge and often acts as a sauna. Gore-tex may not “breathe” fast enough for a hard-pedalling cyclist.

    Navigation: Old vs New

    • Old-school navigation uses paper: bike tour books, maps, activity guides and such. Handle bar bags still have waterproof see-through top pockets for these materials.

    • New-school navigation involves electronics: GPS units, smart phones, tablets, and internet sites. It’s a wireless world, and these methods work reliably even in many “third world” locations. Euroveloroute.com is a site Ed recommends.

    Banjo Bros.  saddlebag panniers.  Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Banjo Bros. saddlebag panniers. Image courtesy Circuit Cycle & Sports

    Overseas Touring

    Getting your gear overseas can be a challenge. Airlines limit the size, weight, and amount of gear you can take on board. For bike touring, there are five choices:

    1. Pack your bike (and other gear) in a bike box for air freight. Boxes are available at bike shops and moving companies. This involves removal of seat/post, pedals, and sometimes front wheel as well as loosening and rotating the handle bars. Be prepared to have Customs open the box to examine it; carry duct tape and use nylon straps to re-seal the box. A recent alternative to the box is a heavy plastic bag; because customs officials can see into it, it needn’t be opened; but some feel it does not protect the bike as well as a box.

    2. Have your local bike shop pack the bike into a box or bag. Ed says the cost is around $50

    3. Rent a bike at your destination. [Many bike rental shops will also rent racks, panniers, tool sets, helmets, and other gear; will adjust the bike to your body; will perform a pre-trip tuneup.]

    4. Travel with a group tour that also provides bicycles and other equipment as part of the tour price.

    5. Buy a bike at the tour start, and either take it home with you at the end or arrange to sell it at trip’s end.

    Plan Your Dream Tour

    Ed asked us to think of our dream tour — where we would love to go with our bikes.  I guess mine would be Europe (I had booked a bike tour in Copenhagen as part of a cruise last year, but the tour company came to the wrong dock and I had to miss it).  Maybe another time.

    Online resources mentioned by Ed:

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